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Small modular nuclear reactors fraught with problems

‘Many issues’ with modular nuclear reactors says environmental lawyer 
Jordan Gill
· CBC News ·Dec 03, 2019   Modular nuclear reactors may not be a cure for the nation’s carbon woes, an environmental lawyer said in reaction to an idea floated by three premiers.

Theresa McClenaghan, executive director of the Canadian Environmental Law Association, said the technology surrounding small reactors has numerous pitfalls, especially when compared with other renewable energy technology.

This comes after New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe and Ontario Premier Doug Ford agreed to work together to develop the technology……..

The premiers say the smaller reactors would help Canada reach its carbon reduction targets but McClenaghan, legal counsel for the environmental group, disagrees

“I don’t think it is the answer,” said McClenaghan. “I don’t think it’s a viable solution to climate change.”

McClenaghan said the technology behind modular reactors is still in the development stage and needs years of work before it can be used on a wide scale.

“There are many issues still with the technology,” said McClenaghan. “And for climate change, the risks are so pervasive and the time scale is so short that we need to deploy the solutions we already know about like renewables and conservation.”

Waste, security concerns: lawyer

While nuclear power is considered a low-carbon method of producing electricity, McClenaghan said the waste that it creates brings its own environmental concerns.

“You’re still creating radioactive waste,” said McClenaghan.

“We don’t even have a solution to nuclear fuel waste yet in Canada and the existing plans are not taking into account these possibilities.”

McClenanghan believes there are national security risks with the plan as well.

She said having more reactors, especially if they’re in rural areas, means there’s a greater chance that waste or fuel from the reactors could be stolen for nefarious purposes.

“You’d be scattering radioactive materials, potentially attractive to diversion, much further across the country,” said the environmental lawyer.

June 27, 2020 Posted by | Canada, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Outer space beginning to look like a new area of nuclear conflict, according to Pentagon


Space Nukes

The U.S. Department of Defense released a new space strategy report on Wednesday. In it, the military revealed that it’s concerned that nukes detonated in space could wipe out its fleet of satellites.

It’s not a new concern, since space nukes were originally banned in the 1967 Outer Space Treaty. But all the same, Business Insider reports that the Pentagon is particularly concerned that China and Russia might strike — a dire warning for the future of combat.

The report specifically identified China and Russia as immediate threats. Such an attack could potentially devastate military communication networks as well as the myriad other systems that depend on satellites.

“The challenge of a nuclear detonation is that it creates an electromagnetic pulse and a signal that could then take out indiscriminately many satellites in space and essentially fry the electronics,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy Stephen Kitay said at a press conference on the report, according to BI.

“That is a threat that we have to potentially be prepared for — a nuclear detonation in space,” he added.

If nothing else, the report is yet another sign that the idea of space remaining peaceful seems to be slipping away.

“I wish I could say that space is a sea of tranquility, but the fact of the matter is that space is contested,” Kitay said. “Outer space has emerged as a key arena of potential conflict in an era of great power competition.”

June 27, 2020 Posted by | space travel, USA | Leave a comment

USA financing nuclear projects abroad – but what if Small Nuclear Reactors are a flop?

Daily on Energy, presented by API: Inside the new US policy on financing nuclear abroad, Washington Examiner, by Josh Siegel, Energy and Environment Reporter & Abby Smith, Energy and Environment Reporter | June 22, 2020 

INSIDE NEW POLICY ON FINANCING NUCLEAR ABROADThe U.S. International Development Finance Corporation mostly had small nuclear reactors in mind when it proposed this month lifting its ban on funding nuclear projects overseas. But a senior official from the DFC – a greatly expanded successor to the Overseas Private Investment Corporation – says the agency also envisions select situations for funding traditional large reactors, despite recent projects being delayed or canceled by cost overruns……..

The official cited a move by Congress a year after lawmakers passed the BUILD Act in 2018, which authorized the DFC, that called on the U.S. government to support energy diversification projects in Europe as a counter to Russia’s “energy dominance.”

It’s worth noting that some European Union member states, like Germany, are strongly anti-nuclear. Nuclear plant construction is currently underway in only three EU member states — Finland, France and Slovakia — according to the World Nuclear Association).
Opening the door for SMRs: Small modular nuclear reactors, meanwhile, are still under development and a decade or so from becoming widely operational. This has critics of the DFC’s move questioning the timing of it. The DFC official countered the new policy puts the U.S. in the game with China and Russia, which are already aggressively promoting their advanced nuclear technologies in developing countries……..
the policy shift commits DFC to nothing if small reactors end up being a flop. The DFC met with small reactor developers such as NuScale, an Oregon-based company seeking to be the first to have its license approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, that were pushing for the agency to change its policy……

The DFC offers direct equity financing, loans, and political risk insurance, while Ex-Im can only offer credit or lending. The DFC has a total investment limit of $60 billion, amounting to about a $1 billion maximum per project, the official said.

He acknowledged the DFC does not have in-house expertise on nuclear power at the moment, but he said it’s not uncommon for the young agency to work with independent engineers and experts from other agencies to assess financing opportunities.

“I am not aware we have anyone on staff who has built a nuclear power plant,” the official said. “What we do have is very strong policies and procedures and frameworks to look at big complicated projects.”

June 23, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, politics international, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA | Leave a comment

How much did USA’s failed plutonium project cost? Now a giveaway sale of MOX equipment

  • U.S. conversion factory’s equipment is on the auction block
  • After $8 billion spent, critics see sale at ‘giveaway prices’

Need some parts for a nuclear plant? The government has a few to spare.

Electrical transformers, motors, and pieces of special glove boxes designed to safely handle radioactive material are available as the government auctions off equipment from a now-abandoned nuclear project that was supposed to turn weapons-grade plutonium into fuel for commercial nuclear reactors.

The online fire sale, which ended Thursday evening, is part of an effort to recoup some of the nearly $8 billion taxpayers spent on the so-called Mixed Oxide (MOX) Fuel Fabrication Facility in Aiken, South Carolina, which sits partially finished.

The Trump administration pulled the plug on the project in 2018 following years of ballooning cost estimates and delays. Envisioned in 1999 with a price-tag of $620 million, it swelled to nearly $48 billion with an estimated completion date in the 2040s. Metric tons of plutonium transferred to the site for conversion remain there.

The thousands of items up for grabs are in their original packaging and “present a rare opportunity to acquire brand new equipment that is top nuclear grade,” said Diana Peterson, president of the auction company AW Properties Global, which has been awarded the subcontract to sell off the goods.

Plutonium Handling

Among the items are 101 pallets of glove box assembly kits — sealed boxes with two arm-length gloves attached to holes in the side, used to handle plutonium and other radioactive materials. The high bid was $20,000 as of Thursday afternoon.

A pair of 3,750 kilo-volt-ampere transformers is going for $70,000. Also available are 300,000 pounds of ventilation equipment, as well as reams of switches, control panels, valves, and electrical equipment.

To critics, the sale is a fitting capstone to a project they say has been beset by waste from the start.

“This give-away sale of equipment from the MOX debacle highlights the massive waste of money spent on equipment that was stockpiled willy-nilly just to spend annual budgets and enrich contractors,” said Tom Clements, director of Savannah River Site Watch, a non-profit public-interest group that monitors work at the sprawling site that made nuclear bomb materials in the 1950s.

There should be a “full accounting to the public about how much was spent on stockpiled MOX equipment, how much has been given away or scrapped, and how much is being sold at pennies on the dollar,” Clements said.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, the Energy Department arm responsible for the site, said the auction was being held in accordance with all government property regulations.

“Any inventory that could not be reused by our government, is going to auction as part of our commitment to recapitalize project value,” the agency said in a statement.

(Adds comment from NNSA in final two paragraphs.)

June 22, 2020 Posted by | - plutonium, business and costs, reprocessing, USA | Leave a comment

U.S. nuclear industry looks for salvation to hydrogen production – clutching at straws?

June 13, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, technology, USA | Leave a comment

Russia has nuclear-powered icebreakers. Trump wants USA to have them, too

June 11, 2020 Posted by | technology, USA | Leave a comment

Radioactive waste imported from Estonia for iconic Bears Ears, Utah?

Radioactive Waste May Be Dumped Near Bears Ears—Public Comments Requested    BY JUSTIN HOUSMAN   |   JUNE 3, 2020

June 6, 2020 Posted by | reprocessing, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

The Mayak nuclear reprocessing plant: Rosatom’s dirty face- and the courageous opposition

Anti–nuclear resistance in Russia: problems, protests, reprisals [Full Report 2020]    Report “Anti–nuclear resistance in Russia: problems, protests, reprisals” Produced by RSEU’s program “Against nuclear and radioaсtive threats”
Published: Saint Petersburg, Russia, 2020
“………The Mayak plant: Rosatom’s dirty face
The Mayak plant in the Chelyabinsk region is a nuclear waste reprocessing facility, arguably one of the places most negatively affected by the Russian nuclear industry. Firstly, radioactive waste was dumped into the Techa river from 1949 to 2004, which has been admitted by the company. According to subsequent reports by the local organisation For Nature however, the dumping has since been ongoing. (37)
 As a result, 35 villages around the river were evacuated and destroyed. Secondly, the explosion at the plant in 1957, known as the Kyshtym tragedy, is among the 20th century’s worst nuclear accidents. (38)
• One of the first organisations that raised the problem of radiation pollution in the Ural region was the Movement for Nuclear Safety , formed in 1989. During its work, the Movement was engaged in raising awareness, social protection of the affected population, and publishing dozens of reports. (39)
After unprecedented pressure and persecution, the organisation’s leader, Natalia Mironova, was forced to emigrate to the United States in 2013.
• Since 2000, another non–governmental organisation, Planet of Hope, has held thousands of consultations with affected citizens. Nadezhda Kutepova, a lawyer and head of the organisation, won more than 70 cases in defence of Mayak victims, including 2 cases in the European Court of Human Rights (40). However, some important cases have still not been resolved. These include 2nd generation victims, cases involving pregnant women who were affected during liquidation, as well as the many schoolchildren of Tatarskaya Karabolka village who were sent to harvest the contaminated crop after the accident. (41)
The state and Rosatom have reacted against the actions of Nadezhda Kutepova, persecuting both her and Planet of Hope. The organisation survived arbitrary inspections in 2004 and 2009, but was labelled a Foreign Agent in 2015 and closed in 2018. /42)
After being accused of ‘industrial espionage’ under the threat of criminal prosecution, Nadezhda was forced to flee the country with her children. She nevertheless continues her struggle to bring justice for the victims of Mayak
.• Since 2002, the public foundation For Nature has been disputing nuclear activity in the region. The organisation appealed to the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation on the import of spent nuclear fuel from the Paks nuclear power plant in Hungary. The court declared the Governmental Decree to be invalid, thus preventing the import of 370 tons of Hungarian radioactive waste. (43)
In March 2015, For Nature was also listed as a Foreign Agent and fined. (44)
In 2016, the court shut down the organisation. (45)
In its place, a social movement of the same name was formed, and continues to help the South Ural communities. (46)
11Struggle against nuclear repository

In the city of Krasnoyarsk, Rosatom plans to build a national repository for high–level radioactive waste. A site has been selected on the banks of Siberia’s largest river, the Yenisei, only 40 km from the city. Environmental activists consider this project, if implemented,to be a crime against future generations and violates numerous Russian laws. Activists are also concerned that waste from Ukraine,Hungary, Bulgaria (and in the future from Belarus, Turkey, Bangladesh, and other countries) could be transported there as well. (47)

The community is understandably outraged, as no one wants to live in the world’s nuclear dump.Since 2013, for more than 7 years, the people of Krasnoyarsk have been protesting. To date, more than 146,000 people have signed the petition tothe President of the Russian Federation protesting against the construction of this federal nuclear repository. (48)
Most of the producing nuclear power plants are located in the European part of Russia, but the waste is going to be sent for ‘the rest of its lifetime’to Siberia. Local activists refer to this, with good reason, as Rosatom’s “nuclear colonisation” of Siberia. (49)
• In 2016, Fedor Maryasov, an independent journalist and leader of the protest, was accused of inciting hatred against ‘nuclear industry workers’as a social group. A criminal case was initiated under the article on extremism. (50)
The basis for thisaccusation was 125 publications on social networksand the press about nuclear topics. The activist’s apartment was searched and his computer seized,along with a printed report on Rosatom’s activities in the Krasnoyarsk region. (51)
The federal security service also issued Maryasovan official warning for treason. Only wide publicity in the media and the active support of human rights lawyers has thus far prevented further criminal prosecution of the activist. ……….”

June 6, 2020 Posted by | environment, opposition to nuclear, Reference, reprocessing, Russia | Leave a comment

The claim that nuclear power is needed for national security is a masked money-grab

 that price won’t only be paid by emptying our wallets . It will also be paid in health and safety. State senators with dollar signs twinkling in their eyes are lining up for relief handouts that will do nothing to fix our healthcare crises — laid bare under the coronavirus crisis — nor our economy. But they are playing the Russia card to get the money.

Make Nuclear Great Again?, May 31, 2020 by beyondnuclearinternational  By Linda Pentz Gunter

The claim that nuclear power is needed for national security is a masked money-grab

The US Department of Energy’s assertions about Russian and Chinese supremacy in the nuclear sector is reminiscent of the “Commie plot” rhetoric of the 1950s. But it’s a thinly disguised ploy to feed at the federal subsidies trough and revive a moribund industry.

A few years ago I attended two days of the Nuclear Deterrence Summit, held just outside Washington, DC. In my defense, I’ll say it was a necessity. I really wanted to get inside how these people think. There was plenty of talk about the need for nuclear weapons, their range and potency, all done with a calm equilibrium devoid of conscience. It was chilling.

But it was also the theatre of the absurd. At one point there was actually talk about a “missile gap.” The Russians were getting ahead. This must be stopped. Was I on the set of a remake of Dr. Strangelove? Was this General ‘Buck’ Turgidson railing about “commie plots” and “mineshaft gaps”?

Life, as it turns out, is routinely stranger than any fiction. Turgidson is still with us, and he has extended his brief to include “civilian” nuclear power plants in the competition with the “Ruskies” and now, the Chinese. Continue reading

June 1, 2020 Posted by | politics, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Green light for Rokkasho nuclear reprocessing plant, but is it viable?


Aomori’s Rokkasho nuclear plant gets green light but hurdles remain,   Japan Times, BY ERIC JOHNSTON, STAFF WRITER, MAY 31, 2020, OSAKA – On May 13, the Nuclear Regulation Authority announced that the nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, had met new safety standards created after the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami.

The NRA’s approval means the long-troubled and controversial plant has moved closer to going into operation. Here’s a look at the Rokkasho plant and the problems it has faced.

What is the Rokkasho reprocessing plant?    The plant at Rokkasho is a 3.8 million square meter facility designed to reprocess spent nuclear fuel from the nation’s nuclear reactors.

Construction began in 1993. Once in operation, the plant’s maximum daily reprocessing capacity will be a cumulative total of 800 tons per year.

During reprocessing, uranium and plutonium are extracted, and the Rokkasho plant is expected to generate up to eight tons of plutonium annually. Both are then turned into a mixed uranium-plutonium oxide (MOX) fuel at a separate MOX fabrication plant, also located in Rokkasho, for use in commercial reactors. Construction on the MOX facility began in 2010 and it’s expected to be completed in 2022.

The Rokkasho reprocessing plant can store up to 3,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel from the nation’s power plants on-site. It’s nearly full however, with over 2,900 tons of high-level waste already waiting to be reprocessed.

Why has it taken until now for the Rokkasho plant to secure approval from the nuclear watchdog?  Decades of technical problems and the new safety standards for nuclear power that went into effect after the 2011 triple meltdown at the power plant in Fukushima Prefecture have delayed Rokkasho’s completion date 24 times so far. It took six years for the plant to win approval under the post-3/11 safety standards.

There has also long been concern and unease over the entire project — and not just among traditional anti-nuclear activists — which the government has been forced to address. Japan is the only non-nuclear weapons state pursuing reprocessing. But as far back as the 1970s, as Japan was debating a nuclear reprocessing program, the United States became concerned about a plant producing plutonium that could be used for a nuclear weapons program.

The issue was raised at a Feb. 1, 1977, meeting between U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale and Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda.

“Reprocessing facilities which could produce weapons grade material are simply bomb factories,” noted a declassified U.S. State Department cable on the meeting. “We want to cooperate (with Japan) to keep the problem under control.”

…….. technical mishaps led to plans being made and then scrapped for many years, while arms control experts continued to worry that Japan could end up stockpiling plutonium that could lead to proliferation problems.

After the 2011 disaster, the NRA created tougher measures to minimize damage from natural disasters, forcing more construction and upgrades at the plant, leading to higher costs.

The Tokai plant halted operations in 2007. The decision to scrap it was made in 2014, as it was judged to be unable to meet the new safety standards. But little progress is being made, due to uncertainty over where to store all of the radioactive waste.

Safety concerns over the Rokkasho plant have remained, especially since 2017 when it was revealed that Japan Nuclear Fuel had not carried out mandatory safety standards for 14 years

By the time of the NRA announcement on May 13, the price tag for work at the Rokkasho plant had reached nearly ¥14 trillion.

What happens next?  The NRA is soliciting public comment on its decision until June 12, but the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry is expected to formally approve the decision. After that, the Aomori governor would be asked to give his approval, though that is not a legal requirement. The last bureaucratic hurdles would then have been cleared to start operations at the plant by the spring of 2022.

However, there are other issues that could force a delay to the start of reprocessing. Japan had originally envisioned MOX fuel powering between 16 and 18 of the nation’s 54 commercial reactors that were operating before 2011, in place of conventional uranium.

But only four reactors are using it out of the current total of nine officially in operation. MOX fuel is more expensive than conventional uranium fuel, raising questions about how much reprocessed fuel the facilities would need, or want…….

Japan finds itself caught between promises to the international community to reduce its plutonium stockpile through reprocessing at Rokkasho, and questions about whether MOX is still an economically, and politically, viable resource — given the expenses involved and the availability of other fossil fuel and renewable energy resources

June 1, 2020 Posted by | Japan, Reference, reprocessing | Leave a comment

Trump’s ominous creation of the U.S. Space Force – for the purposes of war

How much will it cost?  The vast costs will be shouldered by taxpayers, likely by slashing funding for essential social needs. The aerospace industry has suggested defunding “entitlement programs” to pay for “everything space.” That would likely include cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid among other social and welfare programs. In his proposed fiscal year 2021 budget, Trump is recommending $15.4 billion for the Space Force. The Space Force, if it is allowed to continue, will clearly be a multi-billion dollar annual affair. 

Who will profit?
Raytheon is emerging as a major beneficiary of Space Force work. Perhaps not uncoincidentally, Mark Esper, Trump’s U.S. Secretary of Defense at the time the Space Force was announced, is a former lobbyist for the corporation. Other major contractors for the Space Force will be Northrop Grumman, Boeing and Lockheed-Martin, the world’s biggest military contractor.

Space Force is no laughing matter,  May 31, 2020 by beyondnuclearinternational   

What started as “a joke” his now deadly serious; and just plain deadly Continue reading

June 1, 2020 Posted by | space travel, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Here’s a supremely unaffordable nuclear fantasy – reactors on the moon and Mars

NASA Wants to Go Nuclear on the Moon and Mars for Astronaut Settlement, SciTech Daily  By AMERICAN CHEMICAL SOCIETY MAY 31, 2020 m  It might sound like science fiction, but scientists are preparing to build colonies on the moon and, eventually, Mars. With NASA planning its next human mission to the moon in 2024, researchers are looking for options to power settlements on the lunar surface. According to a new article in Chemical & Engineering News, the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, nuclear fission reactors have emerged as top candidates to generate electricity in space.

………. Nuclear devices that run on decaying plutonium-238 have been used to power spacecraft since the 1960s, including Mars rovers and the space probes Voyager and Cassini, but they don’t provide enough energy for a settlement. In contrast, nuclear fission reactors that split uranium-235 atoms, which are used by power plants here on Earth, could provide a reliable power source for a small space settlement for several years, scientists estimate.
Despite funding and design setbacks, researchers are reinvigorating efforts to create a nuclear reactor for space travel and settlement. In the early 2010s, a team of scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory, NASA and the U.S. Department of Energy came together with the goal of developing a new nuclear fission system that could produce at least 10 kilowatts of energy. With a core containing molybdenum and highly enriched uranium, the reactor uses nuclear fission to generate heat, which is converted to electricity by simple piston-driven engines. The prototype, which was tested in 2018, produced up to 5 kilowatts of electricity. The researchers hope to optimize the technology to achieve the desired 10-kilowatt output. They also say that transporting uranium in space can be done safely, as the alpha particles emitted by the core are weak and can be fully contained by proper shielding .

June 1, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, space travel, USA | Leave a comment

Time that Japan faced up to the folly of its nuclear fuel cycle dream

As the situation stands, plutonium will start to pile up with no prospects of it being consumed. Reducing the amount produced is also an issue that needs to be addressed.

The United States and Britain have already pulled out of a nuclear fuel cycle.

May 19, 2020 Posted by | Japan, Reference, reprocessing | Leave a comment

NuScam’s “small nuclear reactor” project runs into yet more trouble

Nuclear Intelligence Weekly 15th May 2020, The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said that NuScale has not “sufficiently validated” the design and performance of the steam generator in its 50 megawatt small modular reactor (SMR) currently under design certification review. The NRC is nevertheless still expected to certify the SMR design but without granting “finality” to the steam generator, touted by the Fluor subsidiary as one of the key innovations to its smaller”cost-competitive” design.
That will likely inhibit the company’s ability to attract further investment to the project, which Fluor itself is no longer investing in.  NuScale submitted its design certification applicationto the NRC in December 2016 and the NRC is expected to grant the certification later this year or early next year.
That, however, depends on the outcome of a staff review of unrelated changes to the SMR’s emergency
core cooling system that NuScale plans to submit to the NRC on May 20.  Instead of resolving the steam generator design issue ahead of design certification, the NRC is deferring to the plant operator Energy Northwest
to resolve the issue during the licensing process, after construction.

May 18, 2020 Posted by | business and costs, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA | Leave a comment

Australian politician John Barilaro gets it so wrong about small nuclear reactors

Electrical Review 4 May 2020  I have to conclude that the Deputy Premier of New South Wales, John Barilaro, is a remarkable clairvoyant. He has announced unequivocally on Australian media that Rolls Royce is set to build up to 15 new small-size nuclear reactors in Britain over the next nine years.
Strange this. Just 18 months ago, according to the Financial Times, Rolls-Royce was preparing to shut down altogether its R&D project to develop small modular nuclear reactors, unless the British government agreed to an outrageous set of demands and subsidies. Granted the Johnson government has bunged them a few million to keep the R&D going.

But there is as yet no sign of anything being oven-ready to come to the marketplace, let alone 15 up and running. But there remain some rather disturbing connections between small reactor projects and nuclear weapons proliferation. And Rolls-Royce does offer up one of the most glaring examples. Part of the company’s current sales pitch to the British government includes the argument that a civil small-reactor industry in the UK “would relieve the Ministry of Defence of the burden of developing and retaining skills and capability” for its weapons programme. It may be true. But it is not really Atoms for Peace, , is it?

May 18, 2020 Posted by | AUSTRALIA, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, spinbuster | Leave a comment